Judges called on by churches to help create a just society

Tue, Oct 6, 2009, 01:00

SENIOR JUDGES and lawyers have been urged by church leaders to work to bring about a just, compassionate and generous society while the importance of the work of those involved in supporting communities here was also stressed.

At a Mass at St Michan’s Roman Catholic Church in Dublin to mark the opening of the new law term, Dr Diarmuid Martin, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, warned that ongoing prosperity could not on its own bring the harmony which society requires.

Urging the congregation of judges, lawyers and diplomats to work to strengthen the fabric of society and make it more caring, he said self-indulgence could lead to corruption, total disregard for the rights of others, a breakdown of community and violence.

Violence, he added, was “a continual threat to the harmony of society” in Ireland today, was “profoundly anti-democratic” and attempted to “limit the effectiveness of community through a climate of fear”.

He urged support for all engaged in the building and support of community, including schools, sporting and voluntary bodies, community organisations and the Garda.

“I think of those whose mission it is to advance legislation which promotes harmony and equality and those whose mission it is to apply such laws and administer justice,” Dr Martin added.

“Yours is a task of the spirit: to ensure that true communication in the fullest sense between people is not inhibited by the raw power of the self-interest of the few.

“The spirit renews. Ireland needs renewal today just as at any period in our history . . . Today more than at many other times we need men and women of the spirit, of courageous and generous commitment to the values that endure.”

At a service at St Michan’s Church of Ireland in Dublin, also to mark the opening of the new law term, the Right Rev Trevor Williams, Bishop of Limerick and Kildare, called on all to work to ensure that post-Celtic Tiger Ireland became a compassionate society.

Addressing a congregation including Supreme Court judge Mrs Justice Susan Denham, Law Reform Commission president Catherine McGuinness and High Court judge Mr Justice Declan Budd, Dr Williams said today’s Ireland was “sobering up with a painful hangover” after the “blind hedonistic rush of the ‘Celtic Tiger’”.

He said former president Mary Robinson had sounded a bit like the prophet Isaiah when she recently said the lack of a comprehensive vision of what sort of society we wanted was at the heart of the problems Ireland faced.

“We have a voice, whether we work in aspects of the legal profession, diplomatic service, the church or wherever we are. In what we do and how we do it, in what we say and how we say it, we have the opportunity to describe an inspiring vision which will call this society forward from the depression of recession to a compassionate society.”

The way to achieve that was to begin with hearing the cries of the oppressed, hungry, homeless, poor and anyone bound by injustice and hopelessness, Dr Williams added. “And responding to their needs not grudgingly but generously.”

“We need to be purveyors of possibility, signposts for hope. We need to believe in the day of small things.

“To believe the next step is important. If we can’t solve the whole problem, it doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do.”

Society was increasingly divided by race, class, social status, educational background and the age-old divide between rich and poor continued to widen, he added.

“When those in need are not heard, not only is an injustice done, but the fabric of society is torn. In a global village when we are closer than ever together, it seems that the walls between us are getting higher.”